Hawaii State of Emergency: Catastrophic Flooding Risk, Freak Winter Storm


After a freak winter storm brought blizzard conditions and a blanket of heavy snow to the top of Hawaii’s Mauna Kea, the island chain is now facing “catastrophic flooding” from a system that will last until Tuesday.

Numerous weather warnings as potent storm wallops Hawaii

Heavy rain began over parts of Hawaii on Friday; however, now the drought-stricken island chain is under the threat of too much of a good thing, AccuWeather reported.

The NWS-issued flash flood watch is for all islands, which are expected to remain in place through Monday afternoon, although the storm system is forecast to persist through Tuesday. The entire islands of Maui and Molokai, and the eastern half of Hawaii, are under flash flood warnings.

According to the NWS, CNN reported, total rainfall amounts from 10 to 15 inches are expected, and isolated areas could see between 20 to 25 inches.

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a number of alerts for Hawaii, including flash flood warnings, Gale warnings, winter weather advisories, flood advisories, wind advisories, high surf advisories, and flash flood warnings.

NWS warning of potential “catastrophic flooding”

The NWS issued a synopsis for the Hawaii area at 7:08 AM local time on Monday, warning residents of widespread, heavy rain that could deliver catastrophic flooding:

“A Kona low will linger just west-northwest of Kauai, drifting slowly westward through Wednesday. A large band of heavy rain associated with this low will also track slowly westward across the state. This system expects widespread heavy rainfall, especially under the large, heavy rain band, capable of producing catastrophic flooding, and strong gusty southerly winds through Wednesday. The heaviest rainfall currently over Maui County this morning will slowly drift westward into Oahu and Kauai later this morning. Improving weather conditions will start over the eastern side of the state by Tuesday, with drier air slowly spreading into the western islands on Wednesday. More typical trade wind weather will return from late Wednesday onward.”

Rain could bring drought relief

On the bright side of the heavy rainfall, all of the islands in the Hawaiian chain have been suffering from drought conditions throughout November, AccuWeather reported. According to the latest report by the US drought monitor, the entire island chain has been categorized under dry drought conditions; however, many areas are experiencing severe to the extreme to exceptional levels of drought. Normal rainfall for the month of November for the chain is 2.25 inches, but in 2021, the islands only received 0.09 of an inch.